Exelon reacts as Illinois agencies issue reports on potential nuclear closures

At the direction of state lawmakers, a number of Illinois agencies have issued an extensive look at the impact of potential premature retirements of in-state nuclear units run by Exelon (NYSE:EXC) and how to avoid the early shutdowns.

A 269-page document on “Impacts and Market-Based Solutions” on premature nuclear retirements was published Jan. 5 by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), Illinois Power Agency (IPA), the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). The document was made public on Jan. 12.

The mammoth document was issued in response to House Resolution 1146.

“We thank the state for its attention and work on such an important issue for Illinois and the future of the state’s energy assets,” Exelon said in a Jan. 12 statement.

“The report confirms that the state’s six nuclear power plants [Braidwood, Byron, Clinton, Dresden, LaSalle and Quad Cities] provide substantial economic and environmental benefits to Illinois residents and businesses,” Exelon said.

“It also highlights the negative impacts closing one or more of the state’s nuclear facilities prematurely would have on Illinois’ economy, energy prices and carbon emissions, and concerns it would raise about the reliability of the electric grid,” Exelon said.

The ICC examined the ability of the state and grid operators to expand transmission resources that might allow increased sales of electricity generated from low or zero carbon emitting facilities located within Illinois. The IPA discussed how nuclear closures would affect reliability and the adequacy of generating capacity in the Midwest.

The Illinois EPA discussed how nuclear plant closures would affect greenhouse gas emissions. The Illinois DCEO examined the impact of nuclear plant closures on the job market and the economic climate in the affected areas.

Each agency developed its analysis independently, according to the introduction to the document. Issues considered include reliance purely on market and external factors; setting up a cap and trade program; a carbon tax; adoption of a low carbon portfolio standing or adoption of a sustainable power planning standard.

The nuclear units at issue have a combined generating capacity of about 12,000 MW, according to the state document. The units are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to operate for another 7 to 18 years. “Having been fairly recently renewed, the licenses of the oldest of these units (Dresden and Quad Cities) will expire the furthest into the future,” according to the report.

Among other resources, the Illinois document draws upon an October report from the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) titled “The Impact of Exelon’s Nuclear Fleet on the Illinois Economy.”

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.